August 11, 2022: The four bright planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – are along an arc from the west-southwest horizon to the east-northeast skyline. The perigean moon is near Saturn after sunset.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:55 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:56 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here is the planet visibility forecast for today:
Four bright planets arc across the morning sky from the west-southwest horizon to the east-northeast skyline. An hour before sunrise, the easiest planet to find this morning is Jupiter. It is over halfway up in the south-southwest. The planet is retrograding in front of the dim stars of Cetus.
Retrograde motion is an illusion that a planet farther away from the sun than Earth seems to be moving westward against the starry background. Earth moves faster than those planets farther away and the line of sight between the two planets generally moves eastward. When Earth overtakes them, the line of sight begins to shift westward until we are well past the planet in our orbit. Then the line of sight resumes its eastward flow.
The Sea Monster’s tail, Deneb Kaitos, is to the lower left of Jupiter, about halfway to the southern horizon.
Saturn is farther westward, retrograding near the stars Deneb Algedi and Nashira, in eastern Capricornus. The Ringed Wonder is low in the southwest.
Looking eastward, the sky is full of bright stars and two planets, Mars and Venus. Mars is over halfway up in the east-southeast, near the Pleiades star cluster, a bunch of stars that resemble a tiny dipper. The Red Planet is marching eastward in Taurus, that is easily recognized with the “V” shape made by Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. Mars passes the Pleiades on the 20th.
Mars is still in the same binocular field with dimmer Uranus. The Red Planet is 4.9° to the lower left of the aquamarine planet.
Venus is low in the east-northeast near the stars Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins. It is east of an imaginary line from Castor through Pollux, extending toward the horizon. The Morning Star is stepping eastward in Cancer.
Reaching its opposition on the 14th, Saturn rises 19 minutes after sundown. Look for it later when the sky is darker and the Ringed Wonder is higher. The planet is in the sky nearly all night. There’s no rush to see it when it rises.
In comparison, Mercury is in the best part of its evening appearance, but it is less than 5° up in the west at 30 minutes after sunset, setting 27 minutes later. Its observation window is very small. Use a binocular.
An hour after sunset, the Full (Sturgeon) moon is in the east-southeast. This is a perigean Full moon, also known as a supermoon. The full phase occurs near the time of the moon’s closest approach to Earth that occurred a few minutes after noon yesterday. The moon’s distance tonight is within the 10% value used for the definition; however, it is difficult to see the difference in size and brightness from a “regular” Full moon.
Saturn is higher and about 5° to the upper left of the lunar orb. Watch the pair move westward during the night.
By three hours after sunset, Jupiter is visible in the eastern sky with the lunar orb and Saturn to its upper right. Mars follows Jupiter across the eastern horizon about 90 minutes after the Jovian Giant rises.
By tomorrow morning, the four bright planets are lined up along an arc that includes the moon. Unfortunately, this year, the bright moon ruins the annual Perseid meteor shower peak.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.
- 2023, December 16: Venus Clawed, Evening Crescent Nears SaturnDecember 16, 2023: Before daybreak, Venus is above the Scorpion’s southern claw. After nightfall, the crescent moon nears Saturn.